She decided to invest in a start-up that would boost start-ups. Bedy Yang, Brazilian daughter of Chinese ancestors, wanted to use her experience in the Brazilian market to be a catalyst for the types of investments and innovation typical of Silicon Valley — the famous technology region near her home in San Francisco, California. That goal led her to start up Brazil Innovators.
Yang’s idea is to bring together people who have the same entrepreneurial spirit in tech fields and wish to grow within their domain but need some help going about it the right way. At the same time, they need to win the confidence of investors and convince others to believe in their ideas.
Right after she moved to San Francisco, in 2005, Yang opened her own business to sell crafts made in communities in different parts of Brazil. Before going to the States, she graduated in business at Fundação Getúlio Vargas, one of the most recognized schools in São Paulo. With a strong interest in innovation and living in the global heart of the technology business, she came up with the idea of building a bridge between tech innovators in Brazil and sponsors and investors from the Valley, and developing ways to promote those ideas.
“A Brazilian tech entrepreneur is a warrior,” Yang says. “Everything in the country is set in a way to make things harder, everything is against the entrepreneur,” she says.
So Yang opened up her phone book filled with Brazilian and American numbers and started to make contacts. Her main role has been to bring those contacts actually together. Created in early 2010, Brazil Innovators organizes many different activities and events. One of their events, BR New Tech, brings together young entrepreneurs interested in sharing ideas, experiences, and difficulties of starting a new enterprise.
The group meets once a month to talk about leadership, administration, how to achieve and manage investments, and to analyze cases of success from the Valley and from Brazil. For those meetings, Yang invites entrepreneurs from Brazil and abroad, scientists from the main universities in the city, and possible investors.
“In Brazil, the investors are still very conservative, very cautions about where to put their money. But you put the right people together in a room, the opportunities start to happen,” Yang says.
Recently, she worked with a group that gathers big names from the Valley, called Geeks on a Plane – organized by Dave McClure of 500 Start-ups – and invited them to land in Brazil. Among the geeks on that journey were people from some major tech players, including eBay, WordPress, and Skype.
After more than a week in São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, what did they think of Brazil? “They love it!” Yang says. “They used to read about Brazil in The Economist, all over the media in the States, but here they could actually see what is going on.”
A group of around 50 of those geeks met with Brazilian entrepreneurs, and then about 35 of them continued the trip to Argentina and Chile. The main differences between the three countries, in Yang’s opinion, is that in Chile the support of the government is evident; while in Argentina, the sense of entrepreneurship is very strong, but there’s not much of a domestic market. In Brazil, there is a lot of money to invest, but there is a lack of attention to tech start-ups from public policymakers and still some reluctance from private investors, she says.
In a little more than a year, Brazil Innovators has accomplished something intangible that is very valuable to those involved: It has brought attention and professionalism to Brazilian start-ups in a way they hardly ever recognize in the country. Since the BR New Tech group meetings started, Yang says, with apparent pride, four entrepreneurs have allied with investors.
(This story originally appeared in our sister site, SourcingBrazil)